Why a new card fighting game?
I’ve been asked a few times why I started out working on EXCEED, and I thought it would be an interesting update topic to share with you. It’s been a weird sort of project, really, and the purpose of the game changed quite a bit over its development. It always began as an offshoot of BattleCON, and was called BattleCON: Exceed for its first few generations.
At first, I wanted to make a new BattleCON series that would bring in mechanics like combos, a more robust gauge system, and ultra moves. It would be an advanced BattleCON game for really serious players, sort of like Third Strike to BattleCON’s Street Fighter.
However, after Argent came out, I began to feel that we needed a more mass-market appropriate game, and I wanted a game that would suit licensed properties and make sense on the shelves of stores like Barnes & Noble and Target.
Argent: the Consortium was a big, ponderous game (and a ton of fun), and represented to me the kind of engagement that a serious game could deliver to serious gamers. When I looked at it that way, I felt we had already delivered on that kind of a game in BattleCON: Devastation.
Argent and Devastation are both great games, but they were engineered by serious gamers for other serious gamers. If I was going to build something with a big reach, I had to engineer it specifically for speed, stripping out a bunch of my favorite mechanics and pruning down all the little niche rules. It had to be a game that I could explain in three minutes and play in ten, with a rulebook no bigger than one page.
I was working with rough materials to carve this game out of Exceed v17. The game had about 15 unique cards per fighter, with each character having styles and bases, combo moves, an exceed mode, 2-4 ultra moves, and 7-12 option cards. It was a bit crazy. Fun to play, but it really was just Advanced BattleCON–it didn’t fill a new market for us, and it certainly wouldn’t fly in mass market.
My big revelation came when I played the game with my friend Jeff Morrow of Slugfest Games, who produces Red Dragon Inn (a great casual game with a reach that I hope EXCEED will have someday). Jeff looked at me after playing v17, turned his head sideways a little bit, and said to incredulously “This is supposed to be the SIMPLE version?” We talked about it at length, and he advised me to find the essence of the game and look for ways to strip out superfluous elements. What could I compress into the mechanics and remove from the component list?
It was at this point that I started spending a lot of time playing successful mass-market games to look for ways to capture the game’s essence. Magic the Gathering, Hearthstone, and Ascension–these games all create complex scenarios and decisions from simple steps. From studying these games, I learned that the key is to make the core of your game as clean and straightforward as possible–to give players only the options which were common and useful. Even if something was good for gameplay, it needed to be generally purposeful to make its way into the rulebook (in fact, we’re considering removing the ‘reshuffle’ action, just because its so rarely used).
After a lot of culling, the majority of the game was compressed down into the part that we felt was most interesting, the option step (now just the regular turn sequence), during which players go back and forth spending their resources for positioning. The option cards became the boosts, and the standard special actions that players could take became the normal boosts. Exceed Mode no longer had to be tracked—it was just a permanent upgrade, which was more in line with the time games took. Furthermore, tracking Force and Gauge was moved away from counters and on to the way cards themselves moved. Rotating discards were switched out for a draw deck and discard pile, to make the game more familiar for casual players.
The biggest change was a move from attack pairs to single attacks. Since the positioning and boosts took the place of styles, the tactically interesting portion of the gameplay was in buildup, rather than reveal, and so we only needed one card to make that interesting. At first I was skeptical of having so many Normals in the deck, but after a few tests, we found a balance that worked really well.
After all this, the game was so dissimilar to BattleCON that we dropped that title altogether and dubbed it just EXCEED, and now it’s the game you have today in the print and play!
It’s been a long road to creating the new game, and I appreciate all of you for supporting the project and becoming a part of it!
I’ve got some new fighters from future seasons going up onto the playtest forums this week. If you want to try them out, you can become a playtester and see them yourself!
I also have plans to create a Magic Set Editor Template for EXCEED in the next few weeks, so that you guys can try your hand at creating your own fighters! I look forward to seeing what you come up with! :D
See you guys back from the office in one more week!